- Ben Margot/AP
The Cleveland Cavaliers have done the impossible: They have erased a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals against the heavily favored Golden State Warriors.
But the Cavs may have had some help from the Warriors before the series even started, if the whispers ESPN insider Brian Windhorst heard are true.
After the Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the Finals in dominating fashion, Windhorst was a guest on Zach Lowe’s “The Lowe Post” podcast.
Lowe mentioned that prior to the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors were quietly worried that the Cavs would be a better team without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and if the lineup around LeBron James was all defense and rebounding.
Windhorst responded by noting that he had heard something far different prior to the start of this year’s Finals.
“That’s what the Warriors were whispering last year,” Windhorst said. “You know what they were whispering this year, I’ve heard? That they knew they had won the [Finals] when they beat the Thunder, that their tough series was over.”
In other words, the Warriors underestimated the Cavs in the worst way possible – they thought the NBA Finals was over before it started.
Lowe said he had also heard that the Warriors were “supremely confident in this matchup” with the Cavs.
On the one hand, it is easy to understand why the Warriors were so confident. They had just survived the far-superior Western Conference playoffs and entered the Finals having beaten the Cavs five times in a row by an average winning margin of 16 points.
That confidence was likely only enhanced when the Warriors won the first two games of the Finals by an average of 24 points.
But if the Warriors did think the Finals was just a victory lap, they underestimated the simple fact that the Cavs still had LeBron James. Basketball is the one sport where it truly means something to have the best player on the court, and that is what we have seen in the last two games. When LeBron is Super-Human LeBron, the Cavs are hard for any team to stop, even one that wins 73 regular-season games and survives a tough seven-game series against the Thunder.
Clearly the Warriors are no longer underestimating the Cavs. But if that is what happened in Games 3 and 5 when the Warriors let the Cavs back in the series, it is coming back to haunt them now.